I’m a self-proclaimed Hydro Thunder arcade junkie. I love that game, it’s so much fun. Whenever I see that arcade game, I have to drop whatever I’m doing and run to go play it. I know what you’re thinking, should I go talk to someone in the medical field about this? Probably, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to check out the latest remake/sequel/reimaging of the franchise.
When Midway bit the dust last year, their game licenses went up for grabs. While Warner Bros purchased the majority of the game licenses, Microsoft for whatever reason, came in a scooped up the Hydro Thunder license. What a great move that was as they (along with developer Vector Unit) have created is something extremely fun that captures the experience from the original arcade version.
Lets mix it up and get the disappointments out-of-the-way first. First of all, there can be a grind for points. You see, you unlock more content (boats/tracks/modes/avatar awards/etc) by winning races or finishing in the top 3. At first the unlocks come fast and furious but as you get to the bigger and better stuff, the points spread out making you play through things you’ve already done just to unlock more content. It’s not terrible, i just wish they found a better way to do this. Also, it’s not the greatest looking XBLA game, but it’s very good. The textures can get simplistic in areas but you’re most likely not going to notice. Also, on higher difficulties, the AI boats do not make mistakes. At all. Ever. For some this will be a fun challenge while for others it’ll become frustrating. I kind of wish they found a good balance.
Now for the good parts! For 15 dollars, Hurricane comes jam-packed with content. In addition to the normal race mode, you also have Gauntlet, which is a time trial mode in which the track is littered with explosive barrels. Avoid the barrels to finish as fast as possible. You also have Ring Master, where you try to skillfully drive through rings to the end. Miss a ring and the game adds 1 second to your overall time. Finally, there’s Championship which is a combination of all 3 events.
The boats are the same as you remember….well…except 1. Midway is now called Vector for obvious reasons. Other than that though, your favorites make a return and each can be given new paint jobs that you unlock as you play through the game. The tracks are all brand new, but inspired from the arcade version. Each track has a wealth of shortcuts to discover along with 10 hidden coins and all of them feature the dynamic and crazy over the top moments that you remember from the arcade version.
Finally, the multiplayer mode is fantastic. Racing against flawed human opponents rather than the unyielding AI boats makes for a fun time, especially since you can take local players online with you. In addition to the standard race mode, a new mode rubber ducky has been included as well. In it you try to stop the enemy teams rubber ducky from crossing the finish line before yours does. It’s quite a lot of fun and will remind you of those days when you raced your rubber ducky in your bath tub as a kid.
I’d also be selling the game short if i didn’t quickly mention the water physics. They’re outstanding. Vector Unit really captured the feel of the water, from following the wakes, to driving over waves, to getting rocked around by explosion, the water feels and looks great.
In the end, we don’t have many arcade inspired racers, especially with boats. So if you’re looking for an all out fun time especially with friends, don’t hesitate to check this one out. It’s an excellent blast from the past.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane gets 4 rubber duckies, out of 5.